Quote of the Day: Newt Gingrich and marriage

‎”Gingrich would like to remind everybody that that marriage is between one man and one woman whom you abandon riddled with cancer on her hospital bed while you fuck the shit out of your mistress whom you later marry and cheat on with a third woman while screaming with Godly moral outrage about the infidelities of the president.”

Random psycholinguistics musings

A couple of days ago, while I was in the shower, I started thinking about an old experiment that one of my former professors had talked about in one of my linguistics classes way back in the dim days of my misspent youth.

If I recall correctly, the experiment, which was done in the 1940s or 1950s and for which I sadly don’t have a citation, was one of the endless series of attempts to ‘prove’ the superiority of whites that were so trendy back then. It involved taking random lists of numbers and asking folks of different races to memorize them.

The results seemed to fit with the racist orthodoxy of the time. Whites and Asians performed best, learning to memorize longer lists of numbers more successfully than, say, Africans.

But another researcher noticed something interesting: success at learning to memorize long lists of numbers varied not with the race of the person doing it so much as with the language of that person. In English, all of the numbers between one and ten are single syllables, except for “seven,” which has two. In Japanese (I’m told), all of the numbers between one and ten have one-syllable names. In some other languages, some of the numbers between one and ten have multiple syllables.

People’s performance on tests involving memorizing numbers varies not with the race of the person, but with the person’s native language, and more specifically with the number of syllables for the various digits in that language. whose native languages were English or Japanese outperformed people whose native language contained many terms for digits that were two or three syllables long, regardless of their race.

When we memorize a list of numbers, it seems, we’re not memorizing the shapes of the numbers or even a concept of what the numbers mean; we’re memorizing words. We rehearse the list of numbers as though we were hearing it or speaking it. (This definitely seems to be what I do; if I’m trying to remember “813-555-7123,” what I do is I say the numbers to myself: “eight one three five five five seven one two three.”)

So that got me to thinking about whether or not what psychologists and cognitive scientists call the “short-term buffer,” which is the place where we stick stuff we’re trying to remember right now, has a limited capacity in terms of syllables as well as in terms of chunks. (The notion that we easily remember lists of seven plus or minus two numbers depends on how we chunk them; I remember “1966,” the year I was born, as a single chunk, not as four digits.)

Anyway, while I was washing my hair, I started wondering if the same concept applies to things other than numbers, such as arbitrary lists of shapes. Imagine a list of shapes, laid out and named like so:

Some of these shapes have names that are one syllable long, some have two-syllable names, and some have three-syllable names. To front-load the experiment, the researcher could describe the shapes by name (to ensure that everyone was using the same names for the shapes), or could even give all the test subjects a copy of this chart.

Now, if there is a correlation between the number of elements that can be stored in short-term memory and recalled and the number of syllables that the words for those elements have, then I would expect that people would consistently do better when asked to memorize lists like dot-dot-square-grid-circle-dot-ellipse-square than lists like triangle-triangle-square-rhombus-hexagon-triangle-ellipse-square. Performance should vary not only with the length of the list but also with the number of syllables in the names of the shapes in the list.

So yeah, that’s the kind of thing that runs through my head in the morning. Anyone want to fund me?

Facial Recognition Fail

So yes, I use iPhoto to manage my sprawling library of digital images.

iPhoto has a facial recognition feature, which–it is claimed–can automatically recognize faces and build an internal database, so you can (for instance) tell it “Show me a picture of Mom” and it’ll pull up all the photos that have her in them.

I don’t use this feature, though it’s on by default, always searching for faces even though I don’t identify any or give it any names. And sometimes, it seems to have a very…Pablo Picasso sensibility when it comes to recognizing faces. If this is the state of the art, it’s hard to wonder why the TSA has yanked all the automatic facial recognition scanners from the airports it was trialling them in:

Playing mad scientist

A couple weeks ago, a friend and I drove down to San Francisco for MacWorld.

That’s not actually what I’m going to talk about. We met some folks, toured a submarine, and explored a cave system, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about either.

Instead, what I’m going to talk about is sex. And brain research.

On the drive back, we were listening to a book on tape about neurology, which talked a bit about a company called Neurosky that was making brain research available to everyone. And it talked a good deal about neurofeedback, and learning to change one’s brain states at will by using neurofeedback devices.

Now, Neurosky makes a full-fledged EEG machine on a chip. It’s starting to show up in toys, like the Mattel Mind Flex, which teaches meditation by reading the user’s brainwaves and letting the user control the toy with her mind.

Which, as I’m sure you can anticipate, got me to thinking about sex.

So the thing I’ve started pondering is the notion of a gadget a bit like the Mind Flex, only that runs a vibrator or some other sex toy. Which got me to wondering if sexual arousal, like meditation or concentration, is associated with a characteristic set of brainwave patterns.

So I am talking to someone in Seattle with a similar interest, and she might be able to get me access to a brain lab and an EEG. The first step would be to find out if sexual arousal can indeed be identified by a specific pattern of brainwaves. The next step would be to see if the Neurosky chip can be hacked to detect that pattern, and to run a sex toy like a vibrator. The third step would be to see, if all this works, whether or not it’d be feasible to actually build a self-contained, brain-operated sex toy system.

So for the first part, I am looking for volunteers willing to go to Seattle, get wired up to an EEG, and sexually aroused while their brainwaves are recorded. There are a few folks who I’ve talked to who are interested; any more takers?

Link o’ the Day: HIV Visualization

From the Russian company called Visual Science comes this absolutely stunning 3D visualization of the human immunodeficiency virus:

From the article on the Web site:

HIV virion is a roughly spherical particle with a diameter between 100 and 180 nm. Virion is surrounded by cell-derived lipid membrane containing surface proteins. Some of these proteins are products of viral genome (surface glycoprotein gp120/gp41) and others are captured from the host cell during viral budding (e.g. ICAM-1, HLA-DR1, CD55 and some others). The gp120/gp41 glycoprotein interacts with receptors on cell surface promoting fusion of virus and cell membranes. Other surface proteins found in HIV perform supporting functions. […]

The HIV genome is approximately 10000 nucleotides long and contains 9 genes, which encode 15 different proteins. The most important viral genes (open reading frames) are Gag, Pol and Env. Gag encodes the p55 protein, which is subsequently cut into structural proteins: MA, CA, NC and p6. Pol reading frame encodes integrase, protease, and reverse transcriptase. Env encodes the two subunits of the surface glycoprotein complex. Other genes (Tat, Rev, Vif, Vpr, Vpu and Nef) produce accessory proteins, which modulate host cell metabolism and facilitate different stages of HIV life cycle.

Click on the picture for a larger version and other visualizations showing different cross-sections of the virus.

Adventures in Europe, Chapter 34: Too Many Monkeys!

The day after our nocturnal traipse around London’s gristly but sadly amber-free sites-of-historic-horror-cum-tourist-attractions and equally livestock-free Tower Bridge, your humble scribe awoke and, after tea and eggs (marred only by the horrifying sight of seinneann_ceoil‘s flatmate digging into black pudding with gusto) travelled to the House of Joy, the domicile of emanix and company, for a stretch.

The House of Joy has since, I’m told, relocated to a different house, and seinneann_ceoil is now a resident therein, so it would be rather an easier journey to make now. As it was, it required some faffing about on the London Underground, which is interesting from a Yankee perspective on account of its efficiency (relative, at least, to Portland’s public transportation system) and for its maniacal and almost reckless disregard for the safety, well-being, and limbs of its many passengers.

Here in the US, where we prefer not to dismember the public in public (but prefer instead to starve them to death and deny them medical care so that they die in private instead), we build subways that have little folding stair-step things that extend when the cars stop, so that folks don’t fall down between the car and the landing and end up getting run over on the tracks or something. On the Underground, they will have one of that highfalutin’ engineering; instead, they leave a gap between each car and the subway platform that’s just about the perfect size to devour one’s leg, one’s child, or one’s Jack Russell terrier, and play a recording of an English gentleman saying “Mind the gap. Mind the gap.” over and over again as the train arrives. Presumably, folks who don’t heed the warning and fail to mind the gap are removed from the gene pool, for the greater good of the Kingdom or something.

Along the way, I passed the long-disused Battersea Power Station, an old decommissioned coal-fired power plant that was the inspiration for the design of Allied Advanced Power PLats in the real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Red Alert. It was a beautiful sight to behold, and made me long for the days when I would hear the oh-so-British computer tell me “New Construction Options” or “A-Bomb Ready.”

Once at the House of Joy, seinneann_ceoil left me in the tender merciless hands of emanix for a time.

Her bedroom is, or rather was (in the old house) on the top floor, rightly lit by large skylights. I say this because I quite like skylights, and I have been lobbying zaiah to install some in our house, which we are currently remodeling into a dungeon (as those of you who read my Twitter know). zaiah believes that skylights inevitably leak in rainy climates–something that the skylights in emanix‘s room do not. Apparently, it’s all about the engineering, or something.

We spent the day lounging around, having slinky hex and faffing on the Internet. I got to learn what it’s like to be the object rather than the perpetrator of needle play, which was…interesting. Interesting, and more than a bit scary.

Which reminds me, I still have the story of the lemon drop at the lesbian Halloween party to write about at some point. I’m not quite sure why I tend to end up surrounded by women who enjoy scaring me, but it seems to happen quite a lot.

I also met emanix‘s tiny stuffed unicorn Herbert.

I’m not quite sure exactly how it happened, but we ended up talking about creating a cartoon character based on Herbert, named Herbert the Rape Unicorn. The original conception involved creating a Web site that would mock common rape-culture ideas (like “if she dressed that way, she obviously must have wanted it” or “If she led him on, then it’s her fault”), but we quickly realized that no matter how obvious or over-the-top the mocking was, someone somewhere would probably take it seriously and walk away with precisely the opposite of the intended message.

emanix drew this cartoon on my arm, which is quite likely the only Herbert the Rape Unicorn comic that will ever see the Web.

Every city has That District. You know, the one where all the cool happening stuff…err, happens. In Atlanta, it’s Little Five Points. In Tampa, it’s Ybor. In San Francisco, it’s San Francisco. In London, apparently, it’s Camden.

After the slinky hex, needle play, and other miscellaneous goings-on which involved sounding and you probably don’t want to know the details of, seinneann_ceoil rescued me and whisked me back to her flat. Some amount of slinky hex, a great deal of cuddling, some British television, and another meal in which her flatmate put something horrifying beyond the measure of man into his mouth later, we opted to venture to Camden.

Which was pretty damn cool, really.

We met up with emanix in Camden, in a sort of Gibsonesque ramshackle assortment of repurposed shops offering T-shirts with political slogans, cheap sunglasses, jewelry, posters, and the opportunity to have your feet nibbled by fish in large tanks of water.

I’m serious about that bit about the fish, by the way. One of the shops we passed had big tanks filled with small fish similar to the ones that tend to cling to the undersides of sharks. For a few pounds Sterling, you could stick your feet in the water and let the fish “exfoliate” your skin. Apparently, it’s all the rage amongst people for whom it’s all the rage.

The place is a weird mix of Victorian-ish sculpture, most of which seems to concern itself with maidens and horses, and neon signs…making it, really, quite like a perpetual steampunk science fiction convention.

She has a gaze that suggests she’s seen it all, and a complexion that suggests quite a lot of it involves pigeons.

Or maybe those are tears, one for each pigeon she has KILLED AND DEVOURED DURING HER UNHOLY ANIMATED RAMPAGES IN SEARCH OF THE SECRET TO ETERNAL LIFE. I don’t know.

The horse sculpture is kind of cool.

It’s always nice to see some commemoration of the life and toil of the essential working man. The working man depicted here would probably have preferred a pay raise to a bug relief erected in his honor, but one takes what one can get.

Maybe I used…

…but isn’t it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

At one little booth, we found a series of prints of grafitti art by the British artist Banksy, who does some really mind-bogglingly amazing stuff. seinneann_ceoil bought me a print of his “There Is Always Hope” piece, on account of ’cause it totally makes me cry.

Exploration of Camden complete, we went off to a university in London-town which was evidently hosting a series of lectures on sexuality and society called Critical Sexuality, or CritSex for short, which sounded like quite an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

The timing of my visit was fortuitous, as it turned out, because apparently they host these things only once or twice a year or something.

We traveled to the university (mind the gap!), whereupon I saw two things that struck my attention.

The first was in the foyer of the lecture hall, before we’d actually got as far as the room where the CritSex lectures were to take place. I saw, for the first time, a woman wearing a full burqa. Not just the head shawl and cloak, but the whole, top-to-toe deal, that even included the chadri that totally obscures the face, including the eyes.

And it was, if I may put it delicately, profoundly fucked up. Seriously, deeply fucked up beyond any rhyme or reason.

Now, I have heard it argued that one can not impose the value system from one culture on another culture. I have also heard that the burqa is ennobling and liberating to women, because it frees them from having to compete in the arms race of sexualization in order to feel that they have value.

To both of those things, I say bullshit. Absolute, unmitigated piles of fresh, steaming bullshit.

First, to the cultural argument: The notion that human beings are persons inherently worthy of being treated with dignity and respect is not a cultural artifact, like a style of watch or the design of a sofa. It is absolutely possible, without resorting to appeals of invisible sky-beings or the trappings of tradition, to construct a rigorous moral framework that demonstrates the benefit of this idea. One need only look at history, at the fact that people of all kinds have tangibly and materially improved the lot of the human race as a whole, to see that any society which deprives itself of the contributions of entire classes of its members harms not only the groups so discrimated against, but itself as a whole as well.

The first surgeon ever to perform open-heart surgery, Dr. Daniel H. Williams, was black. Alan Turing, the man who arguably won WWII for the Allies, was gay. Double Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie, who not only developed the first understanding of radioactivity but also pioneered radiation treatment of cancer, was a woman.

Any society that cuts itself off from some portion of its members, deprives itself of the benefits, innovations, and discoveries those people might make. Women can fly fighter jets, lead nations, explore space, build buildings, design bridges, fight fires, create art, and discover new medical techniques. The notion that one society can utterly quash the most basic and essential of all human liberties for half its population, ad then claim it to be merely a “cultural value” neither better than nor worse than any other society’s values, is absolute rubbish of the highest order. “Cultural values” are not and can not be the excuse for atrocity, the justification for oppression.

The same goes for the notion that wearing the burqa is somehow empowering or liberating to women. Leaving aside for the moment that the whole purpose of this garment is to dehumanize women, on the grounds that the sight of a woman will drive men to sin (and how many shades of fucked up is THAT notion?), let’s be perfectly clear on one very important key point here:

You do not, BY DEFINITION, empower someone by saying ‘If you don’t do what I tell you to do I will stone you to death.’

That is, in fact, precisely the opposite of empowerment. Empowerment lies in giving people greater control and more choices in their lives, not in killing them if they fail to wear what you want them to wear. Remember that should anyone try to argue that the burqa represents empowerment; You do not, BY DEFINITION, empower someone by saying ‘If you don’t do what I tell you to do I will stone you to death.’ That includes any rationalization of the ‘do what I tell you to do’ part whatsoever, whether supposedly handed down by an invisible sky-being or not. It certainly applies to any reasoning that concludes with “No man should see a woman nor hear a woman’s footsteps lest it excite him. Women must not speak loudly in public as no stranger should hear a woman’s voice.”

It’s difficult for your humble scribe to even conceptualize in the wildest flights of fantasy the sort of topsy-turvy, up-is-down universe in which any of this could be called ’empowering’ by any person with even the slightest modicum, however small or insignificant, of sense.

The other bit was cooler. One of the presenters that the CritSex lectures we attended used my map of human sexuality in her presentation. So, yeah.

And that, save for a flight out of London the next day and a miserable 20-hour layover at the airport in Copenhagen, brings me to the end of my travels in Eastern and Western Europe. I arrived, after a total of eighteen hours’ travel time, back in my home town of Portland, on a cramped flight with my knees in my nose and no power outlet at my seat for my laptop; my luggage, which had somehow ended up flagged for a hand search at customs in Atlanta, arrived approximately seven hours later. (It was, according to a Delta representative, somewhere over Wyoming as I was arriving at my house, having opted after being searched to take entirely a different route home.)

Adventures in Europe, Chapter 33: London, Land of the Big Architecture

Slinky hex under the English Channel completed, we made our way back to London.

The trip was not without its minor bumps. British passport control, as it turns out, is just as big a pain in the ass on the Channel-facing side as it is on the airport-facing side. On our way outbound to France, the French passport people just waved us through, as if a minivan filled with perverts was simply a normal part of their day; but coming back, we were greeted with the suspicion and hostility that might be reserved for a brown-skinned man in an antique store in Arizona.

The British passport control agents, rather a scowling lot of ever I did see one, pulled us from the line and made us all unload from the van. Two of them searched the van while a group of their compatriots examined our passports. They have, as it turns out, a special line for Americans and other non-EU folks; as all the other perverts in our van were traveling on EU passports, I was singled out for extra special probing.

Which, in other circumstances, might have been fun.

The Brits eventually chose, grudgingly, to let us back in to the land of crumpets and black pudding, on the grounds that they couldn’t figure out a reason not to, and we were off again. Upon our arrival in London, I curled up with seinneann_ceoil, exhausted from a long day of sleeping in a van, and went to sleep.

The following day, we elected to see the sights and hear the sounds and smell the smells of jolly old London. It smelled of a faded empire, spending billions on aircraft carriers with no planes to outfit them with in place of thing like education, which matters more to the safety and security of a post-industrial nation. It also smells of trees and rain and young children forced to eat black pudding (which is neither pudding nor edible) for breakfast.

We headed out to Trafalgar Square, where news of a robot uprising had reached us via the internet-web. We arrived to discover that it was true; an installation of mechanical arms, rising triumphantly from a large metal platform, had indeed arrived there. They were less hostile than I assumed, at least for the nonce.

Look closely, fleshies! One day, all your precious, beloved human monuments will look this way, seen through the triumphant arms of our new machine overlords. Oh, yes. Memorize this image. Remember it well.

After reassuring ourselves that the inevitable coming robot apocalypse had not, in fact, come that day, we headed out to a pub that was a spitting image of the one in Shaun of the Dead for a bite. On the way, we passed a store display that was quite striking, at least for anyone who likes art. urban decay, BDSM, or feminism. I’m not quite sure which one this was intended to be, but I liked it.

I dig that gigantic lock.

Next up on the agenda: the Wellington Arch near Hyde Park.

The Wellington Arch, as most people know, was commissioned by George W. Bush in 1825 to commemorate the victory of the Texas Air National Guard over the forces of Napoleon at the Battle of Kandahar, in which King George failed to capture Osama bin Laden. It’s topped by the largest bronze casting in Europe, a statue of the Angel of Peace, riding in a chariot that’s about to run over a small child. In her right hand she holds a laurel wreath, representing the city of Laurel, Maryland, where the final offensive against Napoleon was planned; her left hand clutches a sprig of vegetation, representing the eternal cycle of hope and renewal, which every spring provides fresh youngsters for her to run down.

Our timing, as it turns out, was fortuitous. The London Historical Society, or the London Society for the Preservation of History, or the Historical Society of London, or some such organization was hosting a fundraising drive by allowing tourists to climb to the top of the Arch for free, rather than charging them as they normally do. (Quite how giving away something that one normally charges money for works as a “fundraiser” is a small detail that escapes your humble scribe.)

The view from the top was…well, pretty much what I expected.

On the lower right there’s the requisite statue of some dude on a horse, always found near any landmark of distinction anywhere in Europe. (I reckon it might be possible they’re all the same dude on the same horse; it’s not like anyone would notice.) Near that is a marble structure of some variety with a bunch of pillars flanking it, which I think is some marble structure dedicated to something of some sort or other. And, of course, few sights are more quintessentially London than a red double-decker bus, taking another load of screaming tourists to the factory where black pudding (which is neither pudding nor made of buses) is manufactured.

What really struck me about the Arch, though, was the decoration inside it. Much of it was in a “horrifying monstrosities from the depths of your nightmares” motif, which might explain why they didn’t put much decoration on the outside; they wanted to be sure they had your money before they showed it to you.

Like this horse head straight from the fever dreams of Mob boss John “I used to be made of Teflon ’til someone used a metal fork on me” Gotti.

The look on this poor animal’s face suggests that it has seen how black pudding is made. Such things, once seen, can never be unseen.

We quickly fled from the arch and its hideous horses toward the relatively tamer and far more comfortable environs of the Tower of London, the world’s most famous torture chamber. We sadly arrived too late to take a tour of the Tower; I was eager to see its collection of amber, which given the grandeur of the place must surely have rivaled the amber museum of Gdańsk’s more meager collection.

Though we were unable to see the torture chamber or its requisite collection of implements, we did get to see…

…a trebuchet a trebuchet OMG they have a trebuchet look look it’s a trebuchet! (That’s pretty close to an exact quote, by the way.)

And it’s even bigger than the one I made! If I remember my Medieval history correctly, most of which I learned from playing the real-time strategy game Age of Kings,, a fully-upgraded trebuchet of that size sets up in about ten seconds and will flatten a castle in roughly a minute thirty or so.

The Tower of London gets seriously dramatic at night.

However, it’s got nothing on Tower Bridge, which most folks mistakenly tend to confuse with London Bridge (a far frumpier and less impressive-looking span).

Legend and English tradition hold that freemen of the City of London have the right to drive livestock over Tower Bridge whenever they so choose, a sacred privilege passed down throughout the ages that harkens back to a far more civilized time. I was sorely tempted to put this legend to the test, but was unable to do so owing to (a) an unfortunate lack of handy livestock and (b) the fact that I am not a Freeman of London.

Adventures in Europe, Chapter 32: All Good Things…

It turns out that you can’t actually make a living at staying in a castle with a whole bunch of kinky poly folks and having orgies all the time. Not unless you’re, I don’t know, Hugh Hefner or something…and to be quite honest, judging from the outside, I think my sex life is probably better than his.

So it came to pass that the last day of our stay at the castle was upon us, and rather sooner than I would have wanted. After the morning’s slinky hex–err, kinky sex, I spent a good bit of the afternoon running around the castle grounds and exploring the nearby village taking pictures, many of which you’ve already seen.

Later that afternoon, I was joined on the castle grounds by Emily, who suggested we take advantage of the opportunity for more photos. This seemed like a most excellent plan to me.

NSFW. Click on this link only if pics of nakedness in front of a castle won't get you fired or, y'know, make you explode or something.

Some Thoughts On Being Amazing

There’s a graphic floating around on the Internet right now that’s kind of bugging me.

It’s a pretty enough image, don’t get me wrong. It shows a beautiful woman standing in the falling snow, with words over it. The words are all spelled correctly, there’s no extraneous “Warning, the letter S is approaching!” apostrophe where there shouldn’t be one (the prevalence of which in common use is itself an ongoing source of annoyance to your humble scribe), and it uses a lovely script font. I’m not going to bother to re-post it here, but overall it’s not a badly done bit of Photoshop.

What bugs me is what the words say. They, read, in that lovely script font:

If She’s Amazing, She’s Not Easy.
If She’s Easy, She’s Not Amazing.

And it pisses me right the fuck off.

Now, I don’t know if they mean “easy” as in “sexually promiscuous” or “easy” as in “easy to get close to.” It doesn’t really matter; both readings are pretty odious.

On the surface, I can kinda see what the artist intended, sorta, maybe. He or she was probably driving at a point that, in all fairness, is reasonable; if you think a person is amazing, you should be willing to invest in her (or him), and not necessarily to expect that a relationship will come easily or without effort. To some extent, it’s a fair point; things worth having are worth working for.

But regardless of whether or not the unknown artist intended to make that point, I don’t think it’s the point that is actually being made.

If She’s Amazing, She’s Not Easy.
If She’s Easy, She’s Not Amazing.

Taken on its most superficial level–that is, with “easy” meaning “sexually promiscuous”–it’s simply old-fashioned, sex-negative slut-shaming of the most boring and tedious sort. I’ve met some folks who are sexually “easy,” at least for the right partners, who are pretty bloody amazing, thank you very much–smart, educated, driven, successful, literate, happy, fulfilled, insightful, incisive, and on at least one occasion even quite skilled at spinning fire. To suggest that a woman’s amazingness varies directly with how tightly she keeps her legs closed is misogynistic, sure, but it’s such a banal, humdrum sort of misogyny it’s scarcely even worth talking about. Either the essential stupidity of such an attitude is glaringly self-obvious to someone, or it’s entirely inaccessible to him. Either way, it’s so lacking in subtlety or depth that it’s not even interesting.

And it doesn’t even exaggerate misogyny to the point that it becomes social commentary, making misogyny a target of sarcastic ridicule the way this graphic does1.

But I am willing to give the person who created it the benefit of the doubt, and assume that such a blatant reading of sex-negative claptrap isn’t what was intended.

I think, though I could be wrong, that rather than trying to be patriarchal and sexist, the person who created the image was trying to say “An amazing woman won’t be easy to get close to, so one should be prepared to put in the work; a woman who is easy to get close to isn’t going to be nearly as amazing.”

And even that reading is pretty fucked up, if you ask me.

If She’s Amazing, She’s Not Easy.
If She’s Easy, She’s Not Amazing.

The first thing I thought when i read this was, “easy to who?” A person who is amazing might very well be easy to get to know and to become close to, if she finds you to be amazing as well. On the surface, there seems to be a very deeply buried, tacit subtext of “I’m not terribly amazing myself, so it sure would be hard for me to get the attention of someone who is.”

And hell, sometimes being a person who takes risks, who engages the world, who is open and transparent, who is willing to run the risk of living a life unencumbered by a fortress of walls and defenses, is part of what makes a person amazing. Even my pet kitten, who lives in a world that is filled with joy and for whom every new person is a friend, knows that.

The flip side, the idea that a person who is easy to get close to won’t be amazing, is not only absurd, it’s a slap in the face to those who are amazing and who choose to live their lives openly and without fear. Writing off a person as not being sufficiently “amazing” merely because that person is easy to engage seems to me to be profoundly short-sighted.

There’s a deeper, more sinister kind of yuck buried in the sentiment as well.

If She’s Amazing, She’s Not Easy.
If She’s Easy, She’s Not Amazing.

Tucked neatly beneath the surface of this sentiment is an underlying assumption: that it is her job, as an amazing woman, not to be easy, and it is your job, and the person who is attracted to amazing women, to work to pierce that wall.

Yep, it’s the same thing we see in Chanel ads and swing clubs and women’s magazines at the grocery checkout: women are the gatekeepers, men are the pursuers. She is amazing, and her role is to make pursuit of her hard; you are the schleb who wants her, and it is your role to pursue her until you wear down her resistance. Don’t settle for second-best! Don’t take the woman who’s easy to catch! She won’t be as amazing as the woman who is.

And that kind of gender-stereotypical rolecasting is, if anything, even more corrosive than the simpler, more boring kind of misogyny in the first reading. The fact that the elegantly-dressed woman in the photo, standing out in the snow in her expensive cocktail dress, was conventionally pretty in the bland sort of Vogue-esque kind of way, sort of underscores that point a bit.

At least I think so, anyway. But then, I seem to have a statistically disproportionate number of amazing people around me, so perhaps I’m just jaded.

1 At least, I assume the Cinderella image is intended to mock misogyny. It certainly feels like social-commentary-through-comedic-exaggeration to me.